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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/22/10

Three murders at Guantánamo - An investigation will define who we are

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Message Ed Tubbs
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There seems to be considerable confusion concerning one's "love of country" and, in the 2008 campaign words of Cindy McCain, always being proud of it.

If one has even a smattering of knowledge of US history, "always being proud" of the US speaks sadly about one's level of either genuine knowledge and/or one's moral compass.

How much pride should any of us feel when we ponder that the US engaged the most brutal mass genocide as official government policy? Of course I'm referring to Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears, the direct consequence of the "Indian Removal Act of 1830." For the sole purpose of theft of their Georgia land when gold was discovered near Dahlonega in 1829, and elsewhere facilitating a property redistribution scheme worthy of Russian and Chinese communists, the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole) were forcibly removed from lands they had dwelt upon for millennia to Oklahoma Territory. Their homes were plundered, mothers and suckling babes were shot, and General Winfield Scott forced Indians to shoot the chiefs and his children. At least thirty-five percent died en route of starvation and hypothermia, yet the march went forward, not permitting the families to bury their dead, leaving them rather as carrion for scavenging birds, insects, and mammals. ( Nancy C., Curtis. Black Heritage Sites. United States: ALA Editions. p. 543. ISBN 0838906435. and ("Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellan's Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838-39")

You proud of that? Cindy McCain and uninformed conservatives are.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted a canal through the isthmus of Panama. In 1903, President Roosevelt sent US warships to block the forces of the country of Columbia from what then was then an isthmus in the country of Columbia, coercing the country of Columbia to cede what had been its own land as the new country of Panama. And in the farce, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla, a French citizen (!!??), was installed as an ambassador with authority to sign a treaty with the US, on behalf of the new Panama, that would grant in perpetuity US control of the Canal Zone.

I spend much of the summer months in the Reno area. Winters are in Palm Springs. The route linking both is US 395, on the eastern slope of the Sierra, in California. About 10 miles south of the small town of Independence is a national historical site called Manzanar, one of the most famous (or infamous) of World War II's Japanese internment camps that were established under Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. The accepted lie, miserable enough in its own right, is that, following the December 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese, the loyalty to the US by Japanese-Americans, especially those in California, was not to be trusted. The truth is far uglier.

"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over... If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we had never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either." -- Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, as told in the Saturday Evening Post; 1942

The Japanese, through their industry, had become highly productive agriculturists, with highly productive land holdings; highly productive holdings that were jealously sought by their Caucasian competitors. The incarcerated farmer cannot earn the income necessary to pay his property taxes. Property for which there are existing taxes owed is seized, then sold at auction. You can find the brand names of some of these beneficiaries of the scheme in the canned goods isles of your nearest grocery store.

In 1953, responding to British and American oil interests, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed off on Operation Ajax, the CIA plot that overthrew Iran's 1951 democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Mossadegh had nationalized the oil fields that had been awarded to outside oil companies in a sham deal earlier in the century. The US replaced the ousted Mossadegh with the brutally autocratic dictator/Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Then, in 1954, through CIA director Allen Dulles, a former member of Guatemala-based United Fruit Company's board of directors, Eisenhower, via Operation PBSUCCESS, overthrew Guatemala's democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.

You proud of any of that; genocide; land theft; overthrow of democratic governments to satisfy corporate interests? Cindy McCain and uninformed conservatives are. Or, they are informed, and just don't care. Or something that's beyond me.

None of the history books we studied from at Allen Park High, just outside Detroit, made mention of any of these, or other troubling historical facts. Stand each morning to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance," without having the first honest hint what one supposedly was pledging allegiance to. That speaks of an arrogance that is beyond countenance; that one cannot trust a population with the truth, that only through perpetuated ignorance can love of country be perpetuated. Nazi Germany did the same thing, for the same reasons. So did the Soviet Union. So today does the People's Republic of China.

I love this country, and don't need lies to feel that way. Indeed, it's by knowing the imperfections and the times we've allowed ourselves to dishonor ourselves and the heritage of the Founders, that we can only truly claim to love the country. We know its past, and we want better. As can any parent, one can love the child without always being "proud" of what the child has done.

I've had the supreme privilege of traveling much of the United States, from South Dak to South of Santa Fe, from Connecticut to just about all of California, from South Beach to Seattle . . . I've been there. And an awful lot of it is truly grand country. But that's also just geography. To me, it ain't the America I love. The America I love is an ideal, or, rather a devotion to an ideal; a standard of decency, justice, and governance above all the rest.

Today we are faced with another test of that devotion.

The March issue of Harper's magazine is scheduled to hit the stands February 15. It's feature report, now available on line at, "The Guantánamo "Suicides': A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle," chronicles the brutal, deliberate June 9, 2006 murders of three Guantánamo prisoners, 37-year-old Yemani Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, 30-year-old Saudi Arabian Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and 22-year-old Saudi Arabian Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, and the very deliberate, very high-level coverup of the murders, passed off as suicides, what the Bush administration called "asymmetrical warfare."

However the report is lengthy, for every citizen interested in an informed love of country, as diametrically opposite a love built on fiction, the report warrants the most scrutinous reading. To believe the Bush administration version, one must also believe that three prisoners, none of whom were in the same cell, all of whom were some cells removed from each other, all committed the same act, on the same day, at the same moment, using the same methods, and that the methods -- stringing bedding and T-shirts tied eight feet overhead, and then while having rags stuffed deep down their throats and their hands tied behind their back and their legs bound, could climb upon the sinks in their cells, to put their heads through the fashioned nooses, then cinch the nooses tight, and then leap from the sinks -- are equally believable.

My experience as a combat Army Infantry vet from June of '64 to June of '67, and linked to my acquaintance with numerous others, leads me to believe as true the stories of fragging of junior officers, of tossing bound VC prisoners from airborne helicopters, of the shooting of other prisoners. I also believe the reports of the murders of surrendered German and Japanese soldiers during World War II. Such acts are the battlefield acts of traumatized men. (Word of caution: If you ain't been there, shut up.) While not to be excused necessarily, they can be explained. The irrational behaviors are the product of men who have been subjected emotionally and psychologically to every irrational indignity of war.

G'tmo was none of that. Once a soldier has been removed from the proximate locus of the flight-or-fight syndrome, once he has been accorded some reasonable time to regain some semblance of emotional and psychological balance ("Complete" is gone forever, as much as if a limb had been lost.), deliberate murder of prisoners takes on the same seriousness as any homicide. And a homicide demands a full and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of the truth, and of the levying of justice. What anyone thinks of the victims or the perpetrators is irrelevant. The only thing that counts is JUSTICE. At least, in America it should be the only thing. Or, we're not Americans, only lawless gangs of thugs who happen to be citizens of the United States.

Nor must it concern us who is swept up in a criminal investigation, nor any ancillary possibilities such as a suborning to commit perjury by senior officers of junior officers or enlisted men, or of any conspiring to conceal, or of any felonious act associated with a murder, whether they be members of the Bush or Obama administrations, or of the FBI, the CIA, or the US military. I take great umbrage with President Obama's assertion that his desire to look forward militates against a full look into the past. Either we believe in what we say we believe in, or we do not. Today, we are being tested, perhaps not near so grandiosely as we were when Lincoln declared the test was ". . . whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." But we are being tested. Our answer will answer who we really are as a people. Let us comport ourselves in alignment with the words in our National Anthem . . . "the brave."

I love my country and want to be proud of it.

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An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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